I detect an undercurrent of “That’s it?” in the collective response to today’s event, but I’m not sure what Apple could have done differently. A new iPhone and a new iPad demand a proper on-stage unveiling. That the event was held in Town Hall and not a larger venue was a signal that Apple wasn’t going to unveil anything spectacular. It’s not reasonable to expect the spectacular from every single event.
Speaking of the venue, Tim Cook even addressed what I’ve been wondering for a while: today’s event was likely the last Apple will hold in Town Hall. I’m all for nostalgia, but I for one will not miss Town Hall. The seats are incredibly cramped, and the seat backs are hard. Half of the chit-chat before the event starts is about how uncomfortable everyone finds the seats. And don’t get me started about the insanely crowded hands-on area.
iPhone SE: If you listen to my podcast, you know how ambivalent I remain about the physical size of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 6S. I was really hoping that the iPhone SE would effectively have iPhone 6S specs — CPU and GPU performance, and similar camera quality. That seems to be exactly what Apple delivered. I honestly think this is the phone I’m going to use for the next six months.
In hand, the iPhone SE is nearly indistinguishable from an iPhone 5S. Other than the matte finish on the chamfered edges, the only difference I could spot is the “SE” on the back of the phone. No curved sides, no curved glass.
The list of tradeoffs compared to an iPhone 6S is short. The SE doesn’t support 3D Touch, has the slower first-generation Touch ID sensor, and the front-facing camera remains 5S-class. I can live with all those trade-offs. Oh, and its largest storage capacity is 64 GB, not 128.
9.7-inch iPad Pro: This new iPad Pro is a bit more than just a smaller version of the 12.9-inch model. The display technology on the new one is a step ahead of its bigger sibling, and the new color temperature-shifting “True Tone” feature seems amazing. I really hope they can bring this feature to future iPhones.
Apple really pounded on the angle that an iPad Pro is a credible replacement for a PC for many people. I was hoping to see updated MacBooks today, but as soon as Phil Schiller started in on his “replacement for a PC” angle and reiterated that the iPad Pro is Apple’s vision of the future of personal computing, I knew new Macs weren’t coming today. When Apple says “PC” they mean “Windows PC”, but the argument applies just as much to the Mac.
In addition to its superior display, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro also has a superior camera: 12 megapixels instead of 8, f/2.2 aperture instead of f/2.4. It comes with a notable aesthetic price, however: an iPhone 6-style camera bump. Gross.
The new Smart Keyboard is exactly what you think: cramped but serviceable. Could be great for someone with small hands.
New Apple Watch Bands: It seems clear that Apple is going to change the band lineup every six months. If you see one you like, you’d better buy it, because it might be gone in six months. I like the new nylon bands quite a bit.
Renewable Energy: It was nice to see Lisa Jackson on stage. It strikes me as a little absurd though for Apple to describe their use of renewable energy as addressing climate change. Apple is a very big company, but surely their actions alone aren’t making a measurable difference in the climate. It’d be better if they simply held up their use of renewable energy as proof that it can be done, and as a challenge to other Fortune 500 companies to follow. They’re setting a great example, but they need other companies to do the same thing.
Where’s Jony: As far as I could see, Jony Ive did not attend today’s event. He never appears on stage, but I’ve always seen him in the audience, usually seated next to Laurene Powell Jobs.
Apple Turns 40: The “40 years in 40 seconds” opening video was fun. I loved the gag where they showed “Newton” and then scribbled it out.